Director’s Desk: Now More Than Ever

by Jacob Bender, CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director

(Wednesday evening, Nov. 9) These are moments I will remember forever: the eerie hush in this morning’s subway car, the only sound that of grown men and women sobbing.

Whispered phrases float through the train: “This is worse than 9/11.”


An older voice: “… like when JFK was shot …”

Another: “… when my mother died…”

Then silence again, deadened faces looking into a frightening future where all the hard-won gains for civil rights in the past half-century have been rolled back.

I see the word “shock” all over social media. But at least one person in the community objects, writing that the election results are perfectly in keeping with the endemic racism of American society, with economically disenfranchised whites cheering the candidate’s open scapegoating of immigrants and Mexicans and Muslims, thus liberating the subterranean bigotry of our national past. KKK signs are displayed openly at Trump rallies.

Langston Hughes, African American poet laureate of the “Harlem Renaissance” writes:

“O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath —
America will be!”

Early on Election Day, a rock crashes through a child’s bedroom window — adorned with a Clinton poster — of the Qureshi home in a Philadelphia suburb. Glass shards litter the bed of their daughter. I call the Qureshi’s to express my sympathy and to offer CAIR’s support, and I am amazed at their calmness, their lack of anger or revenge.

“And do not become weak, nor grieve, for surely you shall be victorious if you believe.” [3:139]

The courage of the Qureshi family buoys my sagging post-election spirits. The police label the incident “public mischief.”

The attack on the Qureshi home is just one of dozens of attacks on Muslims, African Americans, and Latinos around the country since the election, many on hijab-wearing Muslim women.

If you experience or witness any anti-Muslim or racist acts, please report them immediately to CAIR’s National Civil Rights office at 202-742-6420, or file a report online

At a CAIR-organized interfaith press conference on Monday, speakers will call on President-elect Trump to condemn the violence perpetrated by his supporters as well as to denounce the KKK, which is planning a “victory parade” next Tuesday.

(Friday afternoon, Nov. 11) With a few days of reflection, some things are coming into focus:

•  Notwithstanding the gravity of the situation facing the nation in such areas as race relations, immigration reform, climate change, health care, and foreign affairs, the Muslim ummah has faced far worse challenges than Donald J. Trump:  The Sacking of Baghdad in 1258; the Fall of Granada in 1492; the Palestinian nakhba of 1948; the Bosnia Genocide in the early 1990s, and the ravages of colonialism when 90% of the Muslim lands were under foreign domination. Yet today, Muslims, their faith in God undiminished, number 1.6 billion people on the face of the planet, and Islam is the fastest growing religion in both the United States and the world.

•  In spite of simplistic sloganeering from the Radical Left, Trump is not Hitler, and America is not Nazi Germany. The German Weimer Republic was not even 15-years-old when Hitler become Chancellor in 1933, and democracy had hardly taken root in Germany. On the other hand, the American experience with democratic governance has now lasted 240 years. The Muslim community will be protected by the legal work of the dedicated lawyers at CAIR offices around the country and sister organizations such as the ACLU, and also by liberal public opinion which will publicly stand with American Muslims in the event there is massive persecution of Muslims, God forbid, by the Trump Administration. (Although a friend argues that saying Trump is not Hitler is small consolation when considering the lasting damage Trump appointees can commit at all levels of society.)

•  Which brings me to a most important point: American Muslims are not alone. Vast numbers of Christians, Jews and others committed to social justice will not remain silent should the U.S. government seek to target the entire Muslim community. And Muslims are not alone because their faith binds them to The Creator, in Whom they have absolute faith. “Say: Nothing shall befall us except what Allah has willed for us. He alone is our Protector, so in Allah let the believers place their trust.” [Tawbah: 51]

•  The above points should offer some solace to those still reeling from the results of Tuesday’s election. The best antidote to depression and despair is the doing of good deeds, for despair can easily lead to the false panacea of violence, while the doing of good deeds is God’s commandment. “… so compete with one another in the doing of good deeds…” [5:48]

Indeed, there are many “good deeds” desperately needed by the Muslim community that CAIR is currently involved with: supporting the poor and the homeless throughout the Greater Delaware Valley (“Day of Dignity” and Ramadan Food Drives); encouraging greater Muslim civic engagement (“Muslim Capitol Day”); informing American Muslims about their legal rights (“Know Your Rights” workshops). On a more local and personal level, good deeds can also include interacting with your neighbors and joining your school PTA and other community programs so that people of other faiths get to know their Muslim neighbors.

It is vital to understand, however, that these peaceful programs do not mean acquiescence to the potentially unjust policies of the Trump administration, and should the new government seek to stigmatize or legally assault the Muslim community, I promise you that CAIR-Philadelphia will remain ever-vigilant in the defense of Muslim civil rights.

This is the reason for CAIR’s existence. And its importance: NOW MORE THAN EVER! There is simply no other organization in the US that has CAIR’s breadth of activities, providing free legal services to Muslims facing discrimination and government overreach, engaging with the media to correct its often misleading and simplistic reporting on the Muslim community, and educating thousands of our fellow Americans about the beauty, compassion, and mercy at the heart of Islam.

CAIR’s ability to carry out its mission to defend the Muslim American community, however, depends on your generous donations and your involvement.

The road ahead is surely a frightening one for the American Muslim community, with whom I have been privileged to work with these past three years. But with your support, and God’s protection, we shall overcome.

“O God, You are my strength and You are my support. For Your sake I go forth and for Your sake I advance and for Your sake I fight.” [Abu Dawud 3/42, At-Tirmidhi 5/572]